bereaved-parentWe have words for children whose parents have died and for spouses whose spouse has died, but we do not have a word for parents whose child has died. After the Newtown and Aurora shootings, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon, many found themselves struggling for what to say to parents whose child has died. We encounter this in a lot of forms: children lost through accidents, serious illness claiming lives way too early, substance abuse, and different types of violence. We may be ready to talk with grieving children, or spouses, but parents are not supposed to survive their children. The fact is that many do and it is a difficult and terrible grief to endure.

Through writings and movies, this seminar explores this experience and some avenues for providing pastoral and spiritual care to bereaved parents. This online seminar will be offered September 9-27 for chaplains, counselors, and pastors. It is a seminar about how to provide care for a lingering grief that requires an informed and sensitive approach.

"Despite the numbers of parents grieving the traumatic death of their child," writes Dr. Ron Oliver, "their grief is so misunderstood by the non-bereaved that grieving parents frequently suffer again from the 'care' of their well-intended family and friends. Caring for a bereaved parent requires a paradigm shift away from the way culture defines the needs of bereaved parents and the appropriate response to those needs."

Presentations for this seminar will share the voices of parents who have lost children. The movies we will use are: Rabbit Hole, Ordinary People, and The Way.

The participants in this seminar will examine the needs and grief experienced by bereaved parents and learn approaches that might be used in ministering to them. We will be using the Oates Institute's Connected Learning approach in email dialogue to allow participants to reflect on presented material in light of their own experience and context. Through this process the group benefits by learning from one another as well as from the presentations.

Learning Objectives:

Following this workshop, participants should be able to:

  1. Recognize the depth of pain and assess grief patterns of bereaved parents and help identify resources for their support and counsel.
  2. Establish realistic expectations of oneself as caregiver and of the one who is grieving.
  3. Recognize that a support network may be lost when there is anger and a break in relationship between the grieving person and their faith community.
  4. Be aware of the importance of helping one who is grieving find meaning in their sorrow.
  5. Distinguish ways the caregiver's own wounds and painful issues may cause them to avoid or compromise their care for others.
  6. Acknowledge the role art may have in helping one to deal with pain and even transcend their environment.
  7. Acknowledge the role art may have in helping one identify "invisible forces" that either weigh down a person or may help sustain and comfort that person.

This seminar features the Oates Institute's Connected Learning approach and is limited to 12 participants. It offers 12 contact hours of continuing education for ministers, counselors, chaplains, and social workers. To qualify for the CEUs participants are expected to read the presentations and participate in the email discussion by contributing at least two email messages per week. One message is to reflect on the presentations or case studies in light of one's personal experience and context and the second is to respond to another participant.



Members of the Oates Institute may register for this (and any seminar) for free, others may register for only $90.

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